Facebook gains as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings buys $1M in stock and Microsoft holds on

In a dramatic move befitting of his company’s business, Netflix CEO and Facebook board member Reed Hastings ponied up more than $1 million for a small stake (0.0017 percent) in Facebook.

According to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hastings purchased 47,846 shares at $21.03 a piece on Wednesday, costing him $1,006,201.38. The investment has already accrued more than $37,000 for Hastings, as Facebook’s stock closed up at $21.81 on Friday.

The move suggests that Hastings has confidence in the stock, which hit new lows after Facebook provided zero guidance on its earnings expectations for the rest of the year. Perhaps Hastings knows something the market doesn’t, or maybe the buy is a symbolic gesture meant to show support for a close partner. Netflix was a launch partner of Facebook’s Open Graph and may soon enable U.S. subscribers to automatically share their viewing activity with their Facebook friends.

Facebook got a second vote of confidence today, courtesy of Microsoft. Bloomberg claims that Microsoft will be holding on to its trove of Facebook shares even though the company will be free to unload its stock next week. Microsoft, said an anonymous source, views Facebook as a long-term investment.

Surely no one, save Facebook, would fault Microsoft for dumping its stake. Even with the stock resting around $22 a share, a much depreciated value from the IPO price, the software giant would stand to make a handsome profit from its 2007 investment. At the time, the company put in $240 million, and it holds a 1.7 percent stake in Facebook. That stake is worth around $1 billion.

But investing in Facebook has been one of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s more highly regarded decisions in the last decade. Both companies also have a common enemy in Google, and they remain tightly aligned in many ways, including patent-sharing deals and a partnership that gives Microsoft’s Bing search engine a Facebook advantage. Cashing out now doesn’t seem likely.

The market has reacted well to both pieces of news, but Facebook will be put to the test yet again on August 16, when a share lock-up period expires and insiders are allowed to sell.

Facebook declined to comment on this story.


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